Ideablawg’s Weekly Connections: International Women’s Day and Legal Inspiration From Abella, Arbour and Smith

Today is International Women’s Day, a day to celebrate how far women we have come in terms of gender equality but also a day of hope as we reflect on what still needs to be done. We are not quite there yet and certainly in many countries across the globe not there at all. There are so many inspiring women of all ages but I devote this week’s connections to three jurists women who give me legal inspiration.

  1. There are of course numerous Canadian women in the law profession who provide inspiration to us all. Check out the page at U of T Law School dedicated to some of these legally minded trailblazers. Out of the list, I find inspiration from Madame Justice Rosalie Abella, now sitting on the Supreme Court of Canada. Not only she is an exceptional jurist and dedicated human rights advocate (see the blog I wrote on her dissent in the Court of Appeal on Crown misconduct) but her life story is also an inspiration. A child of the Holocaust, she was born in a Displaced Persons’ Camp in Stuttgart, Germany where her father, a lawyer, helped advocate for the other displaced persons’ in the camp. I have had the opportunity to appear in front of Justice Abella when she was first appointed to the Ontario Court of Appeal and argued a sentence appeal before her in the first week she was sitting on an Appeal panel. Although it was a straightforward appeal, Justice Abella showed her mettle and her mind by dissenting in the case. This was not a controversial case at all and indeed the dissent, legally, did not matter but what did matter was the humanity and compassion she showed by doing it.
  2. Another Justice of the Supreme Court of Canada, albeit a former Justice, is Louise Arbour. Most people recognize her as the Justice who stepped down from the SCC to become the Chief Prosecutor for the International Criminal Tribunals investigating the war crimes of the former Yugoslavia and Rwanda. She then became High Commissioner for Human Rights in 2004 and retired from that position in 2008. Although her tenure in the international scene was not without controversy, she is an inspiration for her tenacity and her deeply held beliefs in international human rights. She now heads the International Crisis Group where she speaks out against any oppressive regime and even western powers like Canada, who, in her view, are not doing enough to advance human rights internationally. Again, I had the pleasure of appearing before Justice Arbour many times when she sat in the Ontario Court of Appeal. Her expansive knowledge of criminal law made it a pleasure to argue a criminal appeal before her. However, I believe it was when she took on the unenviable task of inquiring into the Prison for Women at the Kingston Penitentiary in 1995 that I truly found her most inspiring. Her report is a shocking read but an important one for prisoner rights and women rights. She truly made a difference. After her report, P for W was disbanded.
  3. For more inspiration, I look no further than the trial court. Day in and day out trial judges sift through the nuts and bolts of legalese and listen to the narratives placed before them. Sure they determine cases by applying legal principles but the very best trial judges do so by hearing the stories of the people affected. This is an important part of access to justice – to listen and to give those before them a fair and just hearing.  When I was a law student at Osgoode Hall Law School, I was lucky enough to win the lottery for the incomparable Criminal Law Intensive Program run by the then criminal law professor Alan Grant. It was an amazing program where we students were seconded with lawyers and judges to shadow their daily work lives and to take in their unique perspective on the criminal justice system. I was seconded with the then District Court Judges and among the group I had the honour to work with was the then the Honourable Judge Heather Smith. Of course now she is Chief Justice of the Ontario Superior Court of Justice and the first woman to hold that position. There are no words to express how impressed I was with her abilities and her commitment to the criminal justice system.  As a woman and as a soon to be articling student, she inspired me to treat the law and those individuals in the law, be it lawyers or clients, with respect. In my mind she was the epitome of a trial judge – competent, thoughtful, compassionate and learned in the law - and an inspiration for a young female barrister ready to take on the world.

Blog Update: The Spy and the Pamphleteer

In previous postings, I have discussed two very different cases now before Canadian courts. The first case concerns William Whatcott, a persistent anti-gay pamphleteer, who is before two different courts connected to his pamphleteering activities. The second case is of Jeffery Delisle, the first person charged with spying under the newly enacted Security of Information Act. Although the two cases are completely unrelated, court decisions in both of these cases were handed down on March 30, 2012.

The first Whatcott case, which is still on reserve before the Supreme Court of Canada, involves the Saskatchewan Human Rights Tribunal’s finding that Whatcott’s anti-gay pamphlets amounted to hate speech. The other Whatcott case, decided on March 30, 2012, is an appeal of the quashing of Whatcott’s trespass charge when he was on University of Calgary lands to hand out his anti-gay literature. The original decision to quash the charge by Provincial Court Judge Bascom can be accessed here.

Just as a refresher, the Supreme Court of Canada Whatcott case is a vitally important decision for the ability of human rights tribunals to uphold the tenants of human rights legislation. It also raises the difficult issue of conflicting Charter rights: in this case the freedom of expression under s.2(b) and freedom of religion under s.2(a) in the context of competing Charter values as found under s.15, which promote respect and tolerance of others in our community.

Although the SCC Whatcott case concerns the constitutionality of the hate speech provision in the Saskatchewan Human Rights Code, the ultimate issue in the case will decide whether or not provincial laws on hate speech must conform with the more stringent hate speech section in the Criminal Code. If so, provincial human rights codes could be essentially redundant, leaving the more difficult to prove Criminal Code sections to safeguard society from the harmful effects of hate speech. Some of the factums filed in support of the SCC argument can be found here.

This SCC decision is of particular interest in Alberta, where provincial election campaigning has touched on the controversy surrounding the Alberta Human Rights Commission and its enforcement of provincial hate speech legislation. The Boisson v. Lund case, also discussed in a previous posting, shares similar issues with the SCC Whatcott. The Alberta Court of Appeal has not as yet released a decision on this case. The controversy in Alberta over this case and the high profile Alberta Human Rights case against journalist Ezra Levant for re-publishing the infamous Dutch “Muslim Cartoon,” has brought repeated calls for abolishing the Alberta Human Rights Commission. The Wildrose Party is campaigning on a platform, which includes abolishing the Commission, instead creating a new Human Rights Division in the Provincial Court of Alberta.

In the other Whatcott case of trespassing on University lands, the case has been so far decided in favour of protecting freedom of expression. In a previous posting, I discussed Alberta Provincial Court Judge Bascom’s stay of trespassing charges against Whatcott on the basis of s.2(b) expression rights under the Charter. On March 30, 2012, the appeal of the decision was heard before Alberta Queen’s Bench Justice Paul Jeffery, who summarily dismissed the Crown appeal and upheld Judge Bascom’s decision. The written reasons for the decision have not, as yet, been released.

Unlike Mr. Whatcott, Jeffery Delisle did not receive a favourable decision on March 30, 2012. Mr. Delisle was refused bail by Nova Scotia Provincial Court Judge Beach and ordered to stay in custody pending his trial. A ban on publication was imposed at the bail hearing and therefore the reasons for dismissing the bail application is unknown. Although Mr. Delisle’s lawyer stated he was “disappointed” albeit not surprised with the decision, there is no word whether or not he will be reviewing the decision in superior court. In the meantime, Mr. Delisle will return to court on May 8, presumably to set a date for trial. Delisle’s lawyer has commented on the case, indicating Delisle is not accused of endangering military troops as a result of his alleged espionage. There is some suggestion Delisle, at the time of the commission of the offence, was heavily into online gaming and had a “computer addiction,” which may have lead to monetary difficulties. For further discussion, read my Spy vs. Spy blog and my blog entitled Let’s Talk About: Diplomatic Immunity. For further reading on the Whatcott cases, read my blogs Law, Literature, and Inherit The Wind, The Road Taken By The Supreme Court of Canada, A Message of Tolerance, Limits of Expression, and Whatcott in The Courts Again.



Connecting Hitchens, Havel, And Kim With Human Rights

This past week three extraordinary people died: Christopher Hitchens, Vaclav Havel, and Kim Jong-il. All three impacted the world and human rights, but in very different ways.

When any famous or, shall we also say, infamous people die, there are many news articles, opinion pieces, and blogs about them and their legacies. Some postings were laudatory, as in the case of Vaclav Havel, the enduring symbol of the Czech "Velvet Revolution" or what the Czechs' prefer, "the November events." Havel was an artist, a celebrated poet and playwright. But he was also a dissident who was deeply passionate about his homeland and the concept of democracy. After the Revolution, Havel was appointed President and returned Prague to its magnificence as the "Paris of the East." 

Other articles were castigating: the demise of Kim Jong-il revealed the pathos of a country caught in the iron grip of oppressive dictatorship. A country where "the opium of the people" was the leader himself: worshipped and idolized. To observe the grief of the country over Kim's demise is like watching a slow-moving train wreck as people, young and old, collapse on the streets. A crumpled and lifeless country, devastated by the loss of a caricature of a leader. Truly, the antithesis of Havel - an AntiHavel - not embracing a nation but preserving it under glass as an ornament of the past.

Still other passages were quirky and colourful like the man whom they purported to describe: Christopher Hitchens, himself a demi-God (he would have hated that!) to the witty and smart set. But he was a scrappy fighter for the underdog and a true critic, or shall I say cynic, of the world. He was an observer, who also participated, and that made him the ultimate man of the post-modern era. 

With all three men, we are faced to re-evaluate our own consciousness of being, our own concept of freedom, and our own mortality. Shall we think big and be like Havel: become a social activist and speak out for issues we hold dear? Or shall we look at the individual or micro-rights and change the world, one individual at a time. We definitely will not be Kim and rigidly adhere to a false construction of reality.

Whichever way we decide to "celebrate" these lives and their legacies, what is clear is this: they force us to make choices and to decide what we believe in and on which side we stand. But better yet, I say we think as Hitchens would have liked us to do and ask ourselves "is there really a side at all?"

Chalk one up for humanity in this week of reflection.

Testifying Behind The Veil: The Human Factor

Yesterday I discussed the background to the N. S. case, which has recently been argued, on appeal, before the Supreme Court of Canada. The case is significant for two reasons: it raises the issue of conflicting Charter rights and how this conflict should be approached by the courts and it raises the issue of whether or not a witness in a criminal case is permitted to wear a face covering veil during testimony.

The second issue has broader implications in the public arena as it highlights the clash between traditional religious practices and the modern world, where identity and privacy seem to shrink in the public spotlight. In the age of mass communication, with over 500 million users of Facebook, the idea of masking one's identity, for whatever reason, appears to be not only redundant but also unacceptable.

Legally, such a stance seems to be against precedent as seen in the 2009 Supreme Court of Canada Alberta v. Hutterian Brethran of Wilson Colony case, wherein the Court upheld provincial legislation which required photographic driver licence identification even though such requirement conflicted with the religious precepts of the Brethren. Such picture identification was rationally connected to the real and pressing concerns of safety and security.

Politically too, keeping one's identity private is not acceptable as in the recent decision by the Federal Government to require the removal of face covering veils when fulfilling citizenship requirements, particularly when taking the citizenship oath. This decision does not appear to be decided on the basis of security and safety but, according to Immigration Minister Jason Kenney, on the basis that the "public declaration that you are joining the Canadian family ...must be taken freely and openly." 

In that backdrop, we return to the N. S. case and the decision of the Ontario Court of Appeal written by the Honourable Mr. Justice Doherty for the panel. In the decision, Justice Doherty perfectly sets out the issues at stake "in human terms": 

N.S. is facing a most difficult and intimidating task.  She must describe intimate, humiliating and painful details of her childhood.  She must do so, at least twice, in a public forum in which her credibility and reliability will be vigorously challenged and in which the person she says abused her is cloaked in the presumption of innocence.  The pressures and pain that complainants in a sexual assault case must feel when testifying will no doubt be compounded in these circumstances where N.S. is testifying against family members.  It should not surprise anyone that N.S., when faced with this daunting task, seeks the strength and solace of her religious beliefs and practices. 

M---d.S. is facing serious criminal charges.  If convicted, he may well go to jail for a considerable period of time.  He will also wear the stigma of the child molester for the rest of his life.  In all likelihood, the mere fact that charges have been laid has led many within his family and community who are aware of those charges to look at M---d.S. in a very different way. 

M---d.S. is presumed innocent.  His fate will depend on whether N.S. is believed.  In a very real sense, the rest of M---d.S.’s life depends on whether his counsel can show that N.S. is not a credible or reliable witness.  No one can begrudge M---d.S.’s insistence that his lawyer have available all of the means that could reasonably assist in getting at the truth of the allegations made against him.    

What is really being impacted by this case, which has now taken on national proportions, legally, politically, and socially, is the lives of two people. Certainly, the public's interest in the outcome of the case is valid. This is even more so considering the number and type of intervener's in the SCC case: the Ontario Human Rights Commission, the Criminal Lawyer's Association, the Women's Legal Education and Action Fund, and the Muslim Canadian Congress, to name but a few. However, we must not forget the "human terms" or human factor, which requires us to contemplate the life-changing possibilities of this ruling.

Follow Up Connections: Human Rights, Science, and Literature

As this blog is about connecting ideas, this follow up post will do just that: provide some interesting connections between human rights, science, and literature.

As discussed yesterday, International Human Rights Day, celebrated yearly on December 10, recognizes the anniversary of the most influential human rights document: the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. For more on this, read yesterday's posting here.

December 10, is also the day in which the Nobel Prize Laureates receive their Prize in a ceremony fraught with history and solemnity. This year, the Nobel Peace Prize recipients are three courageous women: Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, Leymah Gbowee, Tawakkol Karmen. According to the Nobel Committee, these three women won "for their non-violent struggle for the safety of women and for women’s rights to full participation in peace-building work". How apt these women received this prize on International Human Rights Day. Their inspiring lectures are a constant reminder that the struggle for human rights is ongoing, even though the Universal Decleration of Human Rights has been enacted for 63 years.

Yesterday was also exceptional for the lunar eclipse seen throughout many parts of the world. Historically, both solar and lunar eclipses, as an omen of fate, stopped wars, or, as in the case of the Peloponnesian War, changed the course of history. Thus, the lunar eclipse as a harbinger of peace, is a meaningful event on a day we celebrate human dignity.

Finally, December 10 was the birth date of a poet, who understood the power of words to express love and hate. Emily Dickinson was a shy and retiring poet, who wrote astoundingly simple yet breathtakingly beautiful poetry. In her 8 line poem from Part One: Life, Emily reminds us where our priorities lie:

HAD no time to hate, because
The grave would hinder me,
And life was not so ample I
Could finish enmity.
Nor had I time to love; but since         
Some industry must be,
The little toil of love, I thought,
Was large enough for me.

Blog Update: The Limits Of Expression

In the November 19 blog entitled A Message Of Tolerance, I discussed the most recent decision by Alberta Provincial Court Judge Bascom to quash a University of Calgary trespass notice against William Whatcott for handing out anti-gay literature on campus. This case is an intersection of two current controversies surrounding freedom of expression: expression on campus and hate speech. 

Although wilfully promoting hatred under s. 319 of the Criminal Code infringes s.2(b) freedom of expression rights under the Charter, it is a justifiable infringement under s.1. In both the Keegstra case and the Zundel case, the Supreme Court of Canada recognized the expressive content of hate speech, albeit repugnant. It is under the s.1 analysis, wherein the Court determines if limiting the expression in a particular instance is justified, where the balancing of expression against Charter values of multiculturalism, equality, and human dignity occur. In this context, expression can and has been limited, particularly where such expression reaches criminal proportions.

However, it is in the non-criminal arena of human rights codes where the line between protection and limitation is not clearly drawn. Criminal hate offences require proof of a high level of subjective mens rea or fault element. Hate speech violations under the human rights codes do not require such a high level of intent, which is at the core of the issue in the other Whatcott case, now under reserve at the Supreme Court of Canada.

Similarly, the Boission v. Lund case, set to be heard at the Alberta Court of Appeal on December 7, raises the spectre of hate speech and limits to expression. There too the extent to which non-criminal hate speech can be restricted by human rights codes will be considered.

The other issue of interest, freedom of expression on campus, I have discussed in two previous postings: the November 8 blog on The Pridgen Case and Freedom Of Expression On Campus and the November 9 blog on Freedom of Expression in the Classroom. The Alberta Court of Appeal has reserved decision on the Pridgen case.

However, the ability of a University to restrict free expression, no matter how ugly, is a current issue, with Campus Pro-Life groups across Canada fighting against university prohibitions of their graphic anti-abortion campaigns. Currently, the Calgary group has a judicial review pending in the Alberta Queens Bench as of April 2011. Calgary, Carleton, Victoria and Guelph have all banned the clubs on campus.

Even university marching bands are not immune as the Queen's University marching band's explicitly discriminatory material against women has resulted in a suspension of the band's activities.

Although the intersection of expression and intolerance is not surprising, what is of interest is the locus operandi or the commonality of place, of this intersection: the university campus. As a result, how the Courts will determine expression limits on campus has just become even more complex.

FYI: Three Updates For A Sunday

Below are three updates of issues discussed over the past thirty days:

1. October 11: Is "Innocent Nudity" Expression? My follow-up blog referred to the case of Gwen Jacobs, who was charged with an indecent act under s.173 of the Criminal Code for appearing topless in downtown Guelph on a hot summer day. She was later acquitted by the Ontario Court of Appeal on the basis that her act was not committed in a sexual context, which was a required element of the offence. At the time, she was hailed as a fearless advocate for the rights movement. Today Gwen is still an activist and on Friday she appeared with her daughter at Occupy Toronto to lend her support. For those wondering, yes, she did have her shirt on - it was cold out! However, thanks to Gwen, breastfeeding at that public event or really anywhere now is acceptable.

2. October 18: Wristbands Are In Effect: The "Keep A Breast" Campaign. Doing a quick Google search reveals this story has received a lot of attention. Commentators on websites, journalists, and bloggers alike all seem to be against the ban. Some comments even set the campaign side by side with Movember, the prostate cancer "grow a moustache" fundraiser. One online article is particularly moving as it reveals some girls wear the wristbands in honour of a loved one who had breast cancer. This becomes particularly meaningful considering, on average, 64 Canadian women a day are diagnosed with breast cancer and 14 women are dying daily of the disease. If you are unable to find the wristbands for purchase, you can go here to post a virtual wristband on your Facebook page or Twitter account.

3. October 21: Where The Wild Things Are. In this post on animal rights issues, I mention Lucy the Elephant in the Edmonton Zoo and the fight for her release. The matter is currently before the Supreme Court of Canada. But what of Lucy and her plight? Recently, the City of Edmonton has decided to take steps to winterize Lucy's enclosure at the zoo. Why now after Lucy has already spent umpteen winters in the Northern Alberta City? The move is after recommendations from a "third party specialist" who examined her. Although the renovation is welcomed by animal rights groups such as PETA, who are involved in advocating for Lucy's release, the gesture does not go far enough over fears she will not survive the harsh winter. As of November 7, both parties to the SCC action have filed their arguments at the Court. It is now a race against time but there is surprising evidence that Elephants can, in fact, run. Go Lucy go!

The Art and Science of Connections

While reviewing my posts, I began thinking of connections and how seemingly unconnected events can provide meaningful and sometimes surprising connections, which can then further enhance our understanding of the subject. Every Friday, I read Simon Fodden's Friday Fillip blog and yesterday he too was discussing connections in his Degrees Of Connections posting. As opposed to Steven Johnson's concept of mentally connecting ideas for innovation, Fodden offered a mechanical option through Wikipedia's Xefer site. This search engine, using Wikipedia articles, can connect any three words to come up with a search list of articles connecting those concepts through a visual "tree of knowledge."

I plugged in three concepts from my previous blogs, not obviously connected: inherit the wind, redemption, discrimination. The results are fascinating as Art and Science truly come together. 

Of course, this mechanical connecting encouraged a mental one and I started making connections between my blogs. Here is my first "six degrees of connections": October 12 Law, Literature, And Inherit The Wind to November 9 Freedom Of Expression In The Classroom to November 8 The Pridgen Case and Freedom Of Expression On Campus to October 18 Wristbands Are In Effect: The Keep A Breast Campaign to October 25 On The Road To The Supreme Court Of Canada to October 22 The Road Taken By The Supreme Court Of Canada which leads back to the October 12 blog. Whew.

How did they connect? I went from Inherit The Wind, the play involving the prosecution of Mr. Scopes, a teacher who taught evolution in the classroom which connects to freedom of speech in the classroom and the PEI case of Mr. Morin showing a controversial documentary in his grade 9 class which connects to freedom of expression by students on campus involving the Prigden case just heard before the Alberta Court of Appeal which connects to freedom of expression of students wearing breast cancer wristbands which connects to what cases have been heard before the Supreme Court of Canada and the Whatcott case involving freedom of expression issues intersecting with freedom of religion issues which connects to the case the SCC should hear on freedom to be free of religion in the classrooms as a result of Morinville, Alberta school and the Lord's Prayer which connects back to Inherit The Wind and the freedom to be free of religion.

How was that for a weekend brain twister? Try it and make either mechanical or mental connections. Who know where they might lead? 

Creating A Positive Out of A Negative

Today, we will journey from yesterday's Peace Camp to Victoria's Tent City and discuss the legal implications of protecting positive rights through the Charter.

Our Charter is generally a negative rights document protecting mostly civil and political rights. To protect these rights, the government is required to refrain from action, essentially to leave us, the right-holders, alone to enjoy rights such as freedom of religion (s.2(a)) and freedom of expression (s.2(a)).

The idea of positive rights in the human rights context is more problematic. These rights require the government to take action, to fulfill our entitlement to rights. They are typically socio-economic in nature and cover a wide array of social welfare issues such as the right to education or the right to health care. 

Traditionally, our Courts have been reluctant to find positive rights protection in the Charter : this would require the non-elected judiciary to step into the political fray by creating public policy. Despite this cautious approach, as Dylan would say (that's Bob, not Thomas), "the times they are a changin'." An example of this judicial trend into the positive rights arena, is the Supreme Court of Canada decision in the Chaouilli case, where Quebec legislation limiting timely access to health care was found to violate s.7 rights under the Charter.

Recently, further forays into the positive rights territory has produced interesting results. The 2009 Adams case, a particularly unique case from the British Columbia Court of Appeal (BCCA), highlights the lengths the Court will go to protect basic human rights, such as shelter. At the time of Adams, the City of Victoria was experiencing a severe shortage of shelter beds for the City's numerous homeless, resulting in a Tent City erected in a local public park. The Tent City housed 70 homeless people by the time the City of Victoria started legal steps to evict the people through the authority of the municipal bylaw. 

In a bold decision, the BCCA found the bylaw was overly broad and deprived the homeless people of their right to life, liberty and security of the person under s. 7 of the Charter by prohibiting the assembly of temporary overnight shelters by the homeless, who had no alternative accommodations. To require them to leave would negatively impact their personal integrity and diminish greatly their human dignity and self-worth.

As a result, the Court crafted a highly ingenious and singular remedy declaring the legislation inoperative when the number of homeless people exceeded the number of shelter beds available. The Court was sending a clear message to the City of Victoria: provide or accept the consequences.

The interesting aspect of this positive rights movement is how grounded it is in the basic minimal needs one requires in order to live; water, food, and shelter. And yet considering the origins, why is this such a unique foray? If indeed these rights are so basic, why are they not already "covered" by the Charter?

Perhaps the answer lies at the beginning of this post; with the meaning of positive rights. The government must act to fulfill these basic rights, which means big government spending big money. Not such a popular notion in a weakened economy. Another reason may be more subtle and may be found in the historical framework of our liberal democracy itself as epitomized by the laissez-faire or "hands off" government policies of the economist Adam Smith.

For whatever reason, it is clear the Courts have become more positive about our rights, which proves a positive can be created out of a negative.


Wristbands Are In Effect: The "Keep A Breast" Campaign

My daughter is an engaged and informed teen. She reads the news and we discuss controversial issues as a family. She speaks out against injustice and lends her support to marginalized groups. Recently, she showed her support when she and a group of friends attended the gay pride parade. It was a positive experience from which she learned that tolerance and diversity are essential values to a healthy and vibrant community. In short, she is a good citizen.

The other day, after a trip to the nearby shopping mall, she came home flushed with excitement. She had "purchased," using her own money, three silicone "message" wristbands in support of breast cancer. As she proudly displayed the colourful wristbands, she read them out: "I Love Boobies," two of them said; "Check Yourself (Keep A Breast), the other said. To me this was clever messaging in a teen-friendly package. As they "say" Facebook, I "like" it and give it a "thumbs up."

Photo on 2011-10-17 at 18.32.jpg

On the weekend, I read, in the newspaper, about parents in British Columbia who don't like it. They find the wristbands offensive and distracting. So much so, the local school banned them. I did what any instructor of human rights would do, I cut out the article for my class.

Today in class, we discussed our fundamental freedoms guaranteed by the Charter, specifically the right under s.2(b) as:

the freedom of thought, belief, opinion and expression, including freedom of the press and other media of communication

The discussion ran through many controversial examples of expression such as public nudity, burlesque dancing, t-shirts depicting violence against women, and even irreligious album covers. The discussion around these issues was often heated and divisive, but then we discussed the wristbands. In this discussion, everyone was in accord with each other: the wristbands are not offensive as they express an important public health message. The message was a cause to support, not to banish.

In a similar case, the United States District Court agreed. According to Madame Justice Mclaughlin, the school imposed ban of the wristbands was found to be an unconstitutional violation of the students' First Amendment rights.

What would happen here in Canada? Considering the Supreme Court of Canada's broad and expansive reading of freedom of expression, there is no doubt the wristbands would be protected expression. Whether or not the code of conduct limiting this expression, would survive s.1 reasonable limit scrutiny requires a more nuanced analysis. I am inclined to believe this prohibiton would not survive Charter scrutiny. A school code with such broadly based prohibitions would not minimally impair a student's right to express themselves. 

In the end, the choice is a personal one. To me, however, the choice is clear: I Love Boobies!


on 2011-10-19 17:02 by Lisa A. Silver

Consider this: The Canadian Broadcast Standards Council okays Buchcherry's song entitled Crazy Bitch as it is "not abusive" but "I Love (heart symbol) Boobies" breast cancer wristbands are banned and branded offensive. Go figure?